RDC Kings basketball head coach Clayton Pottinger liked what he saw while watching video on Malik Smith.
But it wasn’t the basketball highlight video that convinced him that the Cerritos, Calif., native would be a good fit.
“I talked with his coach and watched his basketball video but what put me over the top was watching his football highlight video,” explained Pottinger. “I liked what I saw when it came to his vision and confidence. He was the real deal.”
Smith played football growing up but it wasn’t until his senior year in high school he decided to go out for the senior squad.
“I decided to commit to football for my final year and just have some fun,” he said.
The six-foot, 165-pound Smith stepped in as starting quarterback and threw for over 2,500 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also ran for over 600 yards and scored five times.
He was selected the team’s MVP and first team All-League.
That proved to be the end of his football career as he attended Cerritos College to play basketball.
“It was fun playing football, but I was more serious about basketball … I was good at football and enjoyed playing but didn’t like the contact as much,” said the 21-year-old with a laugh.
Smith did receive interest in continuing his football career.
“I was contacted by a couple of colleges but I didn’t have the passion to play football, it was just more for fun,” he added.
But Malik looks back at that season on the football field as an important part of his growth as a point guard.
“Football helped a lot. It helped me make quick decisions … to be able to read the plays before they happen and anticipate.”
Smith played two years with Cerritos College and was looking for a place to play when contacted by Pottinger.
“Clay sent me an email and we started talking on the phone and connected,” he said. “There were a lot of similarities and I thought it would be a good fit.”
It was also his first trip to Canada.
“That was another reason I wanted to come up .. see the snow. It was a switch from home,” he said smiling. “It’s been good, although I hear it can get pretty cold.”
Smith has always played point guard, a position Pottinger didn’t fill until late August.
“He’s been a great fit,” said the veteran RDC mentor. “His turnovers are low, he sees the court well and distributes the ball.
“He’s a very good on-ball defender and a great kid … there’s a lot to like about him.”
Malik is one of the premier point guards in the conference, sitting second in assists with 104 and 6.5 per game average, the best all-time for an RDC point guard.
Smith likes what he sees.
“I’ve been impressed with the league,” he said. “There’s a high skill level here and the guys can shoot. At home the guys are tall and jump high.”
Smith has played a key role in the Kings battle for a playoff berth.
The team sits at 8-8 and in a fourth place tie with Lethbridge, who they beat twice last weekend.
“Big wins for us,” Smith said. “It was a battle as both teams knew what was at stake.”
The Kings, who are finally healthy, have this weekend off before their final five games — two against Olds and Briercrest and one against Ambrose. They have only one home game — Feb. 9 against Olds — because of the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
To grab at playoff berth, they have to sweep all five and see what happens with Lethbridge (8-7), Ambrose (10-6) and Medicine Hat (10-6).
Malik, who is taking sociology, is in his third season of eligibility.
“I have two more years of eligibility remaining and plan on staying here to play and get my degree, which is my main focus,” he concluded.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org